A Walk in the Park
Article by Kathleen Walls
|How many towns have a train
in a park downtown
Winter Park, Florida
gets neglected. People
lump it together with its big sister, Orlando. While Orlando is
filled with big theme parks and glitzy attractions, Winter Park
is more low key. Winter Park is one of the prettiest little
towns in Florida and one of the most artistically inclined. It
has its own charm and repays visitors with
memories of a wonderful time. Not only the time they
spend enjoying their stay at a unique hotel like Alfond Inn (see
earlier article), browsing the boutiques and restaurants on
Park Avenue, taking a boat tour of the Winter Park chain of
lakes, exploring the Winter Park History Museum, attending the
Rollins College Theater or visiting the Farmers Market, they get
to glimpse what life was like in another era.
Brick streets, cute shops,
greenery, sunny climate, a fountain in the park, what
more can you ask?
Things are not
rushed here. The train still stops on the main street. In fact,
they are just rebuilding a new depot. People picnic
in the downtown
park. Winter Park
is a trip in time as well as place.
A stroll down Park Avenue finds not much changed since its
founding at the turn of the 20th century for wealthy Northern
businessmen. You won't
find any Wal-Mart or Dollar General stores here. There is a
vintage village feel. There's even an Art Deco building still in
use. The Colony Theater is now The Pottery Shop with several
different art stores inside.
|The Colony now houses shops
Greeneda Court, a three-building
Mediterranean Revival style complex with a charming open-air
Spanish-style courtyard with a babbling fountain, was
designed by Gamble Rodgers ll.
It houses Brandywine Books, Kellgrace Spa, Through the
Looking Glass Jewelers and others.
You might want to browse the
Williams-Sonoma Store for hard to find kitchenware where the
displays are not on rigidly arranged counters but antique
stoves, baskets and barrels. You will always know the time by
glancing at the old fashioned square clock above the Peterbrooke
Chocolatier. You can stop
at the Wine Room and
sample craft beers or flavorful wines. cafes and bistros with
lots of outdoor seating
A chance to sample an award-winning
chef's offerings awaits you at Hamilton's Kitchen. This
brand new restaurant
is part of the Alfond Inn which opened in August 2013.
The hotel, owned by Rollins College and funding scholarships
with its profits,
enticed Chef J.
Christopher Windus, a Winter Park native, away from his former
position as executive chef of Todd English's Bluezoo at the Walt
Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel. This was a wise choice as
in just three months Orlando Life Magazine named him "Best New
Chef "in their Silver Spoon Awards.
Windus defines his style of cooking as
"refined rustic. I'm
taking comfort food and trying to refine it a little bit. The
dishes may seem simple but there are a lot of things going on to
layer the flavors."
|Chef Windus at Farmers Market.
Photo Credit Alfond Inn
My daughter and I had lunch there
recently and have to agree. "Simple is good."
I tried the
Shrimp And Grits made with Gulf shrimp, Bradley's north
Florida grits, datil pepper vinaigrette and my daughter had the
Chicken Wrap. For
dessert, we sampled the Chocolate Torte with Raspberries
(more about this at
Chuckwagon Roundup) and the
Bourbon Bread pudding.
I will have to say, they all were simply delicious.
|Winter Park Plaza Gardens for
The menu changes as Chef Windus
is a firm believer in
the "Farm to Table" concept and visits nearby farms to
personally choose the food. He is a regular at the Winter Park
Farmer's Market on Saturdays. Farmers
from Central Florida and even some from farther away come to
display their wares. The
marketis located n Winter Park's historic old train depot in the
same building with the History Museum.
Chef Windus is always on the lookout for
new food choices to enrich the menu but has his regulars. He
states." Lake Meadows Naturals is where we get all of our eggs
from. There's a local honey purveyor and another farmer who has
the best citrus, things like pink tangerines and giant pomelos.
I also purchase from a couple in their 80's who have a farm in
Georgia and they bring down amazing persimmons. These are all
small farmers who are proud of their product, and should be."
The Annie Russell Theater at Rollins
College is a perfect nighttime activity. This is Florida's
oldest university theater. The grand entrance, the red velvet
seats, the ornately carved decor, the priceless artwork, all
contributes to creating an atmosphere of another time: an era
when the play was the
|An old fashioned
clock on the candy factory and a cigar store Indian are
all part of the decor
Annie Russell's entire artistic life
revolved around the college and the theater that bears her name.
It was dedicated in March of 1932 She directed her first play
there, Romeo and Juliet,
in April 1932. Her living quarters and office are preserved in
the theater building.
Annie's last portrait hangs in the
complex. It was done by Eugene Coleman in 1987 from a photograph
and caught her role as founder and director of the theater well.
|Dinkey Dock is one gateway to
Winter Park's Chain of Lakes
Like all good theaters, this one has it's
ghostly legend. I wrote about it for my book,
Finding Florida's Phantoms. Annie's spirit has been
sighted in balcony of "her" theater many times She always sits
in the second seat of the
last row on
the far left. So common are the occurrences it has come to be
known as "Annie's chair." She always wears a lavender dress and
is a gentle benevolent ghost. Here to protect her theatre. She
once said, "I only wish I could live long enough to see how
famous it will be."
Her prediction has come true. The program
at Rollins is considered one of the five best in the entire
|WP is the place to visit if you
want to have fun
True to its early village heritage, you
can even take the train and disembark right there in downtown
Winter Park. The new train depot is under construction and
should be finished soon. It will be a craftsman styled building
designed to blend in with the ambiance of downtown Winter Park
and will serve Amtrack and Sunrail passengers.
Next time you head for Central Florida,
remember, Disney isn't the only park that will transport you to
your own private fantasy. Winter Park is a "for real" fantasy
just waiting for you.
For more info:http://www.winterpark.org/